|Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on September 20, 2016 at 4:50 AM|
These days there's a plethora of self-help books and online courses aimed at helping you find your passion and live your purpose (full disclosure: I offer such a course). Many of us get hooked very quickly on the idea of monetizing our passion. We want to make money doing what we love and we want to make the world a better place in the process. This is a noble goal, and if you're lucky enough to have achieved it then I tip my hat to you.
But this blog is for the rest of us.
This blog is for those who have a tricky time getting paid to be their True Self. This blog is for people who poured all of their savings into what they thought was their purpose, only to lose it all. This blog is for those who are biting their nails while looking at their bank account - hoping that the law of attraction will eventually kick in and bring them the Ferrari on their vision board. This blog is for people who repeat affirmations about being financially abundant when they don't actually believe a word they're saying.
Because here's the hard truth that many of us need to hear: sometimes your purpose isn't supposed to have anything to do with making a living. Your passion might not actually want (or need) to be monetized. And the more you try to convince people to pay you for a purpose that doesn't need money, the less authentic you appear to your audience.
This doesn't mean you'll never make money from following your passion, or that you're doomed to work at a boring office job for the rest of your life. It means you might spend years (or decades) cultivating our passion without making a cent - until the time is just right - and suddenly people start paying you to do what you love. Or you might spend your whole life working at a boring job to pay the bills so that you can follow your passion (for free) in your spare time.
None of these options are wrong. None of them are less "evolved" or "enlightened." We each have unique gifts and reasons for being on this earth at this time, and not all of these gifts need to be tied to earning an income.
Because sometimes when we tie money to our passions, the passions themselves start to fade. Other times, our passions morph into things that aren't even our passions anymore but we keep doing them to pay the bills. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of this. It is simply our job to be aware of what's going on beneath the surface, and get back on track if we've fallen off.
Trust me when I say I need to read this blog as much as you do. From an early age I tied my purpose to my profession. When I was 16 I decided I wanted to be a psychology professor so that I could do research that would reveal the deepest truths of the human mind, and ultimately, the universe (easy, right?). After getting my PhD that passion shifted (for a variety of financial and non-financial reasons) and I ended up in the corporate world where I made great money - but felt 0% passion about what I was doing.
So I did what many self-helpers advocate: I quit my job to follow my bliss. Since 2010 I've gone through a variety of iterations trying to make money from my passions. I've tried coaching, teaching yoga, leading workshops (online and offline), writing books, and doing research. I even worked in a greenhouse for a few months. All with the intention of helping the world and making an income at the same time.
But the relationship between my passions and my bank account is complicated. Sometimes, money rolls in almost effortlessly from projects that I'm not all that interested in. Other times I create products and videos for things that I'm passionate about - but they end up being painful to watch because people can sense how badly I want to be validated by having them purchase what I'm offering.
On the surface my life might seem like I'm one of those people who "made it" at making a living doing what I love. And in many ways I'm extremely fortunate that I work for myself and can afford a pretty great lifestyle. But the truth is that I worry about money regularly. And I often wonder whether it makes sense for me to link my passions with my income. These days, most of my income comes from doing research on yoga in schools. But do I jump out of bed every morning eager to prove the benefits of yoga for children? No. The research I do is for a worthy cause and it pays the bills, but it isn't quite my passion.
One of my passions has always been writing, but I rarely get paid to write. And some days I don't feel passionate about writing at all. At this very moment I have a publisher who is interested in working with me on a new book - which I will write entirely for free. Sure, I might make some royalties if the book sells well, but it's very difficult to make a living solely from writing books (even if you're a New York Times bestseller). The idea of spending a ton of unpaid hours writing this book is scary. Which is why, for me, linking my passions with my income is a complicated, and often uncomfortable, process.
This is also why I think it's crucial for us to take a good hard look at our underlying motivations for monetizing our passions. Perhaps you want to make a living while also helping the world. Great. But it might not happen all at once, or in the order you expect, or at all. It might be that what you're actually seeking is validation for your lack of self-worth, as opposed to really wanting to help anyone. Or it might be that your purpose is to simply enjoy life and have fun regardless of your bank account.
Your passion and purpose might end up having absolutely nothing to do with your career. You might never make a penny from your passion or get any recognition for it. Heck, most of us are lucky to even figure out what our passion is.
So the question becomes: Do you want (or need) to monetize your passion? Why or why not?
I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!